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Builder says moratorium may be for wrong reason

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Shawn Kaleta of Beach-to-Bay Construction in Holmes Beach wants to set the record straight about his projects in Holmes Beach, and his involvement with 60 N. Shore Drive in Anna Maria.

He’s concerned that Anna Maria city commissioners enacted a moratorium at their Feb. 24 meeting on construction of new single-family residences over fears the three lots at 60 N. Shore Drive will be developed into multi-bedroom vacation rentals.

Kaleta said that is “absolutely not the case.”

Kaleta said he owns 10 percent of MEK Properties LLC, the company that bought the lots, and they are being marketed to people who plan to live in Anna Maria.

“We’ve already sold one lot to a couple from Tampa who are retiring here. The real estate agent told us the owner has no plans for a rental, but wants to retire in peace and quiet, ” said Kaleta.

The remaining two lots are being sold for single-family homes, Kaleta said, adding it’s “absolutely untrue” that his company is planning houses in Anna Maria that can be turned into vacation rentals accommodating several families or large groups of people at one time.

“I know some people in Anna Maria don’t believe me, but I live in Anna Maria and I love the old Florida atmosphere. I will do what I can to preserve that,” he said.

Considering the current economic climate, Kaleta said, now is “not the time for a building moratorium.”

He noted that no Anna Maria commissioners contacted him about the plans for North Shore Drive. He assumes they made assumptions based on rumor, not fact.

Kaleta said he’s only done three construction projects in Anna Maria the past few years and he is not involved in any way in the project at 207 Palm Ave.

It’s just another assumption some people have made about him and his company without meeting or talking with him, he said.

“I wish people would call me. I’m part of the community. I want to help the community center and the city. My family bought the old Moss cottage on Willow Avenue and we are going to preserve it, not demolish it.

“We could build a new house or develop multiple homes there, but we’re not. We want to keep Anna Maria as much old Florida as possible, given the restraints (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has in place.”

Some Holmes Beach residents publicly chastised him at a commission meeting last year for construction of multi-bedroom duplexes.

But, Kaleta says, since that happened, he has tried to explain his company only built what the owners wanted and what was allowed by city code.

It’s not up to him to judge what the owners intend to do with their structure when they hire him to build, he said.

He said more than 90 percent of homes his company built in 2011 — some 40 projects — were four bedrooms or less.

“It’s what the owners wanted. If I didn’t build it, someone else would. It’s the city codes that determine if what they wanted could be built.”

Any complaints about loud parties and multiple people at a vacation rental should be directed to the owner or rental agent, not the contractor, he said.

He has partnered on some ventures with Steve Hanson, who markets vacation properties, but he is not presently working with Hanson.

Hanson owns Modus Operandi Construction LLC, which is building a residence in Anna Maria.

Kaleta invites people to call him at Beach-to-Bay Construction about his projects and properties.

He says he is not responsible for the construction style of a residence, the number of bedrooms permitted in any Holmes Beach or Anna Maria residential construction, or the rental of vacation properties. Those are city issues.

Kaleta says he builds projects to suit the owner, and the market is driving the changes on Anna Maria Island, not the builders.

3 Responses to Builder says moratorium may be for wrong reason

  1. Patrick says:

    I am new to the island but frankly am concerned at the reticence residents have to accept simple truths.

    We bought an “Old Florida’ home on Gulf Drive. It’d be a nice place if it weren’t for the termites, the old electric, the old roof and the horrendous layout. You know…70 years of accumulated deterioration from sun, sand, wind, rain and people.

    The wife and I started working with the city and some architects to essentially rebuild the place to current standards in an “Old Florida” style. And you know what?

    It cannot be done.

    Follow this:

    Old Florida homes on the island generally have ground-level living areas or other enclosed areas. You cannot do that today due to state and federal/FEMA rules. Impossible.

    “But your home is grandfathered in,” you say. Except that means little, because those homes that are “grandfathered” with an “Old Florida” ground floor cannot be realistically renovated due to the 50% rule – you cannot spend more than 50% of the STRUCTURE value to fix it up. In our case, that means we are limited to $40 a foot. For those not aware, construction today is well over $100 a foot.

    So where does that leave our Old Florida home?

    Torn down. We cannot avoid it. The insects have done enough damage and the roof cannot be insured after next year. Federal, state and local laws DEMAND that “Old Florida” be destroyed – one house at a time – and be replaced with modern structures built on stilts, meeting setbacks that require people to build up and not out. The cities refuse to consider setback that allow wider, more stately homes that do not require two-stories of “lift” above those stilts. So you have no choice but to go up ever higher.

    I understand people don’t like 5-bedroom homes, but my family needs at least four. Add a home office or two (we both work from home)…and now it looks like those houses everyone hates. The home we bought could have accommodated our family, but the law will not accommodate our Old Florida house. Tearing down and building over is not our first choice. It is not our second choice. But because of the laws – it is our ONLY choice.

    Seriously, stop blaming homeowners and builders for meeting the rules you all supported. Under the law, each and every Old Florida home on Anna Maria is going to meet the same fate someday. It’s only a question of “when”.

    I just hope when the time comes for you to fix a problem you find in your house, that the answer you get from the city is not “you cannot fix it. You need to tear it down and build it to look like the thing everyone hates.”

    But I know the answer, and someday you will know it, also. Stop blaming the victims – the homeowners who try to keep a little charm on the island – only to be told by island officials that it is illegal to even consider “maintaining the character.”

    Seriously, they are talking from both sides of their mouth. Want proof?

    At your next council meeting, ask the building officials whether an “Old Florida” home could be built today, using the setbacks and ground floors of past. Ask them what happens to your Old Florida home when you need a major renovation due to issues beyond your control.

    Watch the answers and start pointing fingers at the real cause: massive over-regulation of everything home-related on the island. Face it – Old Florida is dying because your politicians outlawed it a long time ago. Amazing that even today you believe their hollow words attempting to save it.

  2. Bill DiMenna says:

    Patrick,
    Thank you. You hit the nail on the head. The moratorium is a bogus attempt to further deny property owners their rights.

  3. Bob says:

    The concept of a building moritorium when our community is struggling to get back on its feet is mind bogleing to me. I think everyone wants to maintain the Old Florida charm on the island…

    As I drive throughout the island I am so impressed with the new homes Beach to Bay has built and many other homeowners and contractors. These homes arent a detriment…if anything I’m thinking they should probably bull doze some of the structures that will be a hazzard to everyone else when the storm hits.

    I’ve had personally interaction with several of the contractors on the island. These guys are going above and beyond to use the best materials possible and maintaining the architectural integrity over and over.

    If this group of commissioners cant figure out how to clearly state their objectives without putting hundreds of jobs at risk they need to step back and regroup. They will affect people’s ability to make mortgage payments because they are not qualified to affect change without a moritorium?

    Sounds petty and unprofessional at best.

    This entire topic is an embarrassment to our community.

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